Art

KALICO invites the community to lend a hand in a new community art project

KALICO invites the community to lend a hand in a new community art project

One Saturday morning, Michell Wang, manager of the KALICO clay studio, was shaping the first pieces of the community art center’s upcoming public art project.

Bent over a spinning wheel, her hands covered in gray, Wang would occasionally grab a flat piece of metal called a rib, which can be used to help refine the shapes she formed from the wet clay.

Called spacers, Wang said the clay shapes she makes will be 2 inches in diameter and mounted on a metal pole. The spacers will go between taller elements of the sculpture that will stand up to a foot tall. When all the components are combined, the columnar sculptures will be between 4 feet and 7 feet tall. Depending on the participation, there will be three or four sculptures made.

Clay pieces for the KALICO Column Sculpture Project at the KALICO Art Center in Kalispell on March 19, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon

As the project begins with Wang, by its conclusion, KALICO hopes that people of all ages will also participate in the creation of the columnar garden sculptures, which are planned for the grounds of the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell. The installation date will likely be in the fall, according to Jemina Watstein, KALICO’s executive director and director of programs.

Starting March 23, people can come to KALICO during its opening hours and “beautify” the struts. Embellishment can mean a number of things, such as glazing, carving, stamping, or adding clay to clay.

“I provide the canvas, so to speak,” Wang said.

Michell Wang stacks components sculpted from clay for KALICO’s Column Sculpture Project at the KALICO Art Center in Kalispell on March 19, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon

Spacers are just one way for people to have a chance to contribute to the community art project. People who enroll in the upcoming handcraft and ceramic wheel throwing courses will spend class time working together on a class sculpture that will be installed between spacers.

Class size is eight students each. Wang said in upcoming classes she will also discuss totem poles created by indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest. The columnar sculptures are inspired by the shape of the totem. She said she plans to talk about the concept of cultural appropriation in her classes and that she thinks cultural appropriation is a concept that she knows people may not be comfortable discussing.

“What I want to help facilitate is thinking about should we call them totem poles? And why not us?” Wang said.

Wang said that, like most people, her introduction to ceramics came when she needed high school credit. “I just didn’t quit after that,” she said.

In the meantime, she’s taken classes, found mentors, read books, joined community studios, and even acquired her own wheel. In her classes, she said she enjoys introducing students to the elements of visual art, not just utilitarian art like cup and bowl making, which is often associated with ceramic work.

“I want students to feel a bit more comfortable doing ceramics through this lens as well, as it will translate to them continuing to make their utilitarian objects. It will be cool to see what they take away from it and how it translates to their growth as a ceramic artist.

Michell Wang shapes clay pieces on a potter’s wheel for the KALICO Column Sculpture Project at the KALICO Art Center in Kalispell on March 19, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon

One of the main technical skills Wang will teach is to create something that will stay in one piece from start to finish.

She also plans to try to guide the project in such a way that all the different contributions are not completely at odds with each other. Part of this will be discussing a theme in class. She will also discuss animal symbolism, family values ​​and how all of this is represented through the elements of art. She said she would also keep in mind that part of the Hockaday’s mission is to preserve the legacy of Glacier National Park.

“The Hockaday has the final say on what can be accepted,” Wang said. “I’m convinced it’s going to be amazing.”

Funding for the project comes from a 2021-2022 Artist-in-Residence Fellowship provided by the Montana Arts Council. Watstein said the grant was written for the two workshops and for a community sculpture. This isn’t the first time KALICO has contributed to the community art scene. The art center was behind the road sign box project, as well as the Tunnel Vision project, which brought murals into multi-use lane tunnels.

“We are committed to beautifying the city,” Watstein said. “Ultimately, we want to uplift our community through the arts.”